Today was the second to last full day of cycling, and was about the hottest weather we have experienced, but nonetheless was a lovely day in the saddle (or on the comfy seats of our trikes which can hardle be called saddles). We are significantly further south than Bangkok and into the “two seasons” part of Vietnam. The north part of the country has four seasons and the south has two – a wet and dry season. I am not quite sure where the divide is but we are south of it.
We breakfasted at the Haven Hotel – which meant a slightly later start. The first 400m was winding through the narrow lanes of the village (just about enough space for a motorbike but no cars) and then up a 17% ramp to the main road. The road was undulating across a series of headlands – none too steep but a sequence of 30/40m climbs and the descents. On one descent I was travelling about 50kph and noticed a huge pothole ahead. Fortunately the road was quiet so I could maneuver around it but it would have been more challenging if it had been busier.
There was lots going on in the villages we passed – shops, schools, police roadblocks (they never stop us) and general activity. Vietnam does not appear to have a problem with under-employment – where people are not “unemployed” but do not have enough to do. It seems a busy, motivated place where people are constantly economically active. One of the things we have noticed is that practically all buildings here appear to have been built since the war (which ended in 1975). Spotting older buildings is difficult but they are few in number. This is a country where economic success has been relatively recent and has followed a population explosion. It has a population today of about 100M people, but was 47M at the end of the war and so has more than doubled in less than 50 years. In contrast, the UK had a population of 56M in 1975 and is 67M now.
The population is still growing – this is a young country – but at a much lower rate. There is considerable external investment, political stability (this is a one party, “communist” state with a capitalist economy) and GDP has doubled since about 2010. All of which explains why many now regard Vietnam as a developed nation as opposed to being a developing nation – but it is a matter of semantics. To us it is an economic success story where the benefits of increased wealth have, to some extent, been spread beyond a favoured few. It seems clear that if you are a middle class, employed person in this country, life has the potential to be very good. There is poverty, but on nothing like the scale we saw in Laos – but there is a huge job to tackle environmental pollution and to create sustainable waste systems – no doubt tasks that the government here is well aware of.
That digression arose because cycling through the country gives us an opportunity to see, take in and examine things in slow time in a way that is not possible from a car or even on the bus. That is not to say that this level of economic development justifies a single party system – as South Korea and Japan – both functioning democracies are still by far and away the most successful economies in this region.
We had coffee in a delightful little fishing town, Son Cau, and then headed to “the bridge”. Bernie had discovered a motorbike/footbridge which crossed a causeway and saved us about 15km cycling. But there was a catch – it was rickerty as hell, collapsed and was “rebuilt” last year and crossing it’s 1km length was a trial in itself. I will leave the video to tell the story but we survived, though Bernie confessed that she was terrified all the way along.
After the bridge, the “road” disintegrated and was just a pitted, sandy track. This is where the trikes are great because they are so stable – even with one front wheel about 12 inches higher than the other! Eventually a concrete surface emerged under the sand and we went through more fishing villages. There was delightful scenery but it was midday now and getting hot – in a “mad dogs and Englishmen” sense.
We rolled into Tuy Hoa at about 3pm – having covered 85km. This was a modern, well developed town of 200,00 people – not in any of the guidebooks. It has numerous hotels but we were not sure why. There is a lovely beach but, when we walked on it, it was virtually empty apart from near the Sala Grand Hotel (rooms are 2M dong per night – about £75). We walked from the beach to the commercial centre and had a lovely Vietnamese meal, then reverted to our hotel by about 7.30pm. We are both pretty tired and know we have a long day tomorrow, so its a case of blog and bed!
1 thought on “Day 62: 6 March: Bai Xep to Tuy Hoa: 85km and 500m of climbing. ”
How lovely to see that girl on the bridge wearing what looks to be an ao dai. Memories! Very much the norm in 1972; less so now I suspect.